Skills and training in Ukraine stands on the threshold of historic change with the potential to bring profound social and economic benefits to the eastern European country. Last week, the #ETFTRP blog reported on how the education reform agenda is helping to increase the attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET). This week, we bring you P.t. 2. – the Czech perspective.
The challenges Ukraine faces in getting its far reaching reforms right are understood by Miroslava Kopicova, a former Czech Minister of Education who is now director of the Czech Republic’s National Training Fund, a non-profit NGO that formulates policy advice.
Although much bigger, Ukraine’s VET system today is reminiscent of Czechoslovakia’s in the early 1990s when the sudden collapse of communism in November 1989’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ left it facing what was both a massive void and opportunity.
‘The Czech economy was very open – we had been 100 % state and moved rapidly to a situation where most firms are now private companies,’ she told an ETF summit on VET devolution in Kyiv in April.
Training workers with the right skills set is essential she says.
OECD forecasts suggest that in the next two decades as many of 10% of jobs will disappear as robots are increasingly introduced for repetitive task. A further 35% will undergo fundamental change thanks to technological advances.
For the Czech Republic, with a workforce of around 4.5 million, that will mean the loss of at least 400,000 jobs and significant retraining for a further 1.5 million people. Ukraine – with a much bigger workforce – will face challenges of commensurate scale.
‘We must give children a strong foundation to enable them to change their qualifications,’ Miroslava says. ‘We cannot let them leave school with a low level of maths because IT (information technology) will be everywhere – even jobs in the humanities will require good knowledge and understanding of IT.
‘We must teach them to be more experimental and entrepreneurial; we need to prepare them for opportunities.’
Ukraine does not have to reinvent the wheel as it embarks on its historic VET devolution process, she adds.
‘My advice to Ukraine would be to give a chance to all kids to enter VET school – not to stop them applying through exams they may fail. Young people come from different backgrounds; from the village and the city; they might live with their grandmother… see them as people who can gain qualifications.’
Later, after they have graduated with skills desperately needed to support Ukraine’s economic growth, the country must work to help create ‘demanding jobs to keep them at home and prevent them leaving the country.’
Policymakers can help by preparing the economy for the digital age and simplifying red tape to make it easier for people to set up companies.
Discipline and morality should also be keywords in creating a responsible, qualified new workforce, she concludes, adding: ‘If not, everything can be easily destroyed.’
And if Ukraine can achieve this, then perhaps VET will no longer be the butt of jokes.
Text: Nick Holdsworth
Photos: Gary Bonge